Introduce now: compulsory Kurdish language class for all children in Turkey

A new year of indoctrination started this week in Turkey. Not only of Kurdish children, who will be forced once again to learn a curriculum that excludes them in a language that is not their mother tongue, but also of Turkish children, who are made to believe that there is no diversity in their country.

Police violence at the stairs of the Kurdish language school in Diyarbakir
Police violence at the stairs of the Kurdish language school in Diyarbakir

It’s interesting that the education debate mostly revolves around the language in which instruction is given. The Kurdish movement wants education in the mother tongue, and this school year three such schools stared as a ‘pilot project’ in Cizre, Yüksekova and Diyarbakir. Governors however closed the schools, there was police violence to prevent the schools from opening again – read an extensive article on the matter here (by me). The ultimate goal of the Kurdish movement is to have not only private schools providing education in Kurdish, but state schools too. There’s a long way to go, since the constitution needs to be changed for that. Continue reading “Introduce now: compulsory Kurdish language class for all children in Turkey”

Will those holding Molotovs remain stronger than those bearing arms?

The young generation versus the old guard: for years now, those are the two groups referred to in analyses of a solution of the Kurdish issue. The idea is that the Turkish state had better hurry up making peace as long as the ‘old guard’ is still leading the PKK, because the younger generation, which will inevitably take the lead one day, won’t be so eager to end the conflict.

It’s about time we left this theory behind. And replace it with a new one, based on two other groups within the Kurdish movement: those with and those without arms.

The ones (sometimes) holding Molotovs. (picture taken by me at opening of PKK graveyard in Lice, summer 2013)
The ones (sometimes) holding Molotovs: YDG-H members. (picture taken by me at opening of PKK graveyard in Lice, summer 2013)

I have always had my doubts about the suggestion that the younger generation of Kurds would be less willing to make peace than the older generation. Yes, they grew up during the last thirty years of war and have seen, experienced and suffered a lot, but would that not make them more willing to make peace, rather than less? Continue reading “Will those holding Molotovs remain stronger than those bearing arms?”

Kurds aren’t sexy

‘So’, the young man in the group I talk to in a park in Sirnak summarizes, ‘you are looking for several Kurds to interview about the situation thirty years after the first PKK attack on the Turkish state, and that will be published in the Netherlands? Somebody is interested in that?’ He laughs; he just cannot believe it. I can only say: ‘Yes’, and shrug my shoulders.

I understand why he doesn’t believe it. The world’s media don’t have history of showing much interest in the Kurds. And if the Kurds are written about, it is often in the context of the country they are living in. Kurds as a nation of their own, with their own history, their own culture, language, politics, dreams and problems, are somehow not very ‘sexy’.

Abdullah Öcalan after being capture in 1999.
Abdullah Öcalan after being captured in 1999.

Examples? It’s been hard to write about the thirty year struggle of the Kurds against suppression in Turkey. It’s a long-lasting conflict, which usually only attracts the media’s attention when something exceptional happens (like in 1999, when Öcalan was captured) or when the violence takes a higher than usual toll (like when more than 20 soldiers die in one attack). Human rights abuses? They happen anywhere in the world, so they have to be exceptionally cruel to make it to the media. Tortured Kurds? Who cares? Continue reading “Kurds aren’t sexy”

A man-made law

It was 2007 and I was in Cappadocia (central Anatolia) with my parents. It was spring and hot, we had taken a walk through a valley and ended up in a small village, Ibrahimpasa. We went to the cafe on the town square for a drink. My dad, not yet a regular Turkey visitor at the time, sat down on the small terrace, sighed, wiped the sweat off his forehead and said: ‘I’ll have a beer.’

Five minutes later, we were having hot tea and cold water. Of course, beer wasn’t available there. That’s very normal in Turkey: in the great majority of restaurants and sidewalk cafes, alcohol is not served. Not in the small towns in Anatolia, and also not in Istanbul. (You know that too, Hugh 😉 And a Spanish journalist who is surprised about not being able to order wine in a lunch restaurant in Istanbul reveals more about his lack of knowledge of the local customs than about the extent of Islamization of the city.)

In general, people in Turkey drink tea. I remember sitting outside at a cafe in Kadiköy, Istanbul, where alcohol was available and I was having a beer, but young and modern people around me were having tea. On a sunny weekend afternoon. Turkey just doesn’t have a drinking culture. When you want to have alcohol with your lunch or dinner, you need to ask if that’s possible when you enter the restaurant. If not, you’ll need to go somewhere else.

Red or white?

That’s totally different to the situation in the country I come from, the Netherlands, as in any other European country. There, drinking is almost automatic. Alcohol is available in practically every restaurant, also for lunch. When you sit down in an outdoor cafe in summer in the afternoon or evening, beer or wine is what you have. When I visit friends in my home country, the question is usually not which drink I would like, but ‘Red or white?’ – white, please. When I visit my parents, I can count on dad having put a bottle of white wine in the fridge beforehand.

Now Turkey is in an uproar because the AKP government has changed the laws concerning alcohol. Part of the package is that retailers cannot sell alcohol anymore between 10pm and 6am (cafes, hotels and restaurants still can) and that alcohol cannot be sold anymore within a hundred meters of a mosque or a school. Alcohol ban! some people shout.

Sorry, but that’s not an alcohol ban. Even stronger: with the time limitation, in practice nothing much changes from the current situation. Supermarkets are usually already closed around that time, and you would have to search for any small specialized alcohol sales point (Tekel) that’s still open.

Some hotels, bars and restaurants will probably be affected by the 100 metre rule, but there is also a good chance there will be exceptions for tourist areas. Not only to support businesses, but also to support the incumbent AKP local government in many tourist areas. You see, there are local elections scheduled for the beginning of 2014. Both the new alcohol law (AKP voters are against drinking) and the expected exceptions to it will serve the AKP, the party that loves power more than God.

Centuries ago

For many people, even foreign observers, this alcohol law is the proof that the AKP is actually ‘Islamizing’ Turkey. I find that intriguing. I think Turkey, or the land we call Turkey now, was already Islamized centuries ago. Just as the part of the world where I come from was Christianized centuries ago. I know of course that what people mean when they say ‘Islamizing’ is that the AKP wants to impose its Islamic values on society. But my point is: Islamic values are already ruling this society, just as Christian values are ruling the Netherlands.

The criteria are: does the AKP limit other people’s choice to drink? They do when it comes to the hundred metre rule. Not selling alcohol around schools though, is actually not the worst idea ever. Not around mosques? Now on that particular point, the new law directly touches religion, is definitely inspired by Islam and should be cancelled.

Still, I think alcohol has become only more available since the AKP has been in power. Look at the very conservative city where I live, Diyarbakir. Within walking distance from my house in Baglar (I tell you, that’s not a modern part of town) there are two ultra modern shopping malls where I can buy all the alcohol I (think I) need. No way was it like that ten years ago. Thanks to AKP’s friends in the construction business, shopping malls with Migros and Carrefour (two of the big markets that sell alcohol) are still expanding all over the country.

Not a healthy product

The other details of the law aren’t necessarily ‘Islamizing’. I for sure support harsh punishment for driving under the influence of alcohol. That advertising alcohol will be restricted is bad news for the alcohol producers but not such a strange policy. Don’t forget (as I sometimes tend to do) that alcohol is not a healthy product.

Which doesn’t mean that I think it makes any sense whatsoever to introduce stricter alcohol laws in Turkey. PM Erdogan and some AKP MP’s say many EU countries have similar laws and Russia tries to limit alcohol use too – which made me laugh out loud, because the social problems caused by alcohol in the EU and definitely in Russia are uncomparable to the situation in Turkey.

Like I said, these lands were Islamized centuries ago. The alcohol consumption in Turkey is very low. Turkey has no alcohol problem and people don’t need a man-made law to not touch alcoholic drinks. It’s true what PM Erdogan said some weeks ago: the yoghurt drink ayran is Turkey’s national drink. He said it himself, so why on earth restrict alcohol? Well, that’s where the previously mentioned local elections come in.

Underage marriage

If Erdogan was really concerned about the people’s health and the welfare of the family and of Turkey’s youth – the reasons he claims to have for the new alcohol rules – I have some ideas.

Please, please urgently draft (and implement!) a serious policy against domestic violence, sexual abuse and underage marriage. Launch a campaign to inform the public about the dangers of smoking, and especially of smoking in the presence of children. Reduce the places where you can buy cigarettes, raise the prices a lot and implement rules that ban children from buying tobacco products. (There are new tabacco rules to come, let’s see what they contain.)

And who is going to tell people in this country about the biggest health risk every single Turks inflicts upon himself? I’m talking about sugar. Putting three or four sugar cubes in ten to twenty cups of tea a day (thats 210 to 560 cubes a week!), and accustoming children to that from a very young age, is very hazardous to your health.

But don’t expect too much from the AKP in these fields. You don’t want to estrange the voters from you, do you?

The boys are dead

Life was good in Gülyazi, I heard. Poor and not easy, but good. Happy, even. I wish I had been here a year and a day ago, so I could have experienced it myself. But a year and a day ago, I, like many other people, had never heard of a place called Gülyazi, a town in the Uludere district.

Everything changed last year. With a bombing in which 34 villagers were killed, twenty of them children. They were smuggling, like the people of this region have done for decades to earn a living, and were ‘mistaken for PKK fighters’. Thirty four bodies ripped to pieces and burned beyond recognition  – they were smuggling petrol.

Who gave the order to bomb?

It is as I predicted after the bombing: the state has done nothing but cover up the Uludere massacre. A commission was set up in parliament – a subsidiary commission of the parliamentary human rights commission – and several times they announced a date for release of the report with their findings, but the report never came and has now been postponed to January. But in no way can I pat myself on the back for predicting this. Anybody could have known this in advance, because till now the state has never answered any questions about murders they have committed, now or in the past.

That’s why my next prediction is easy too: even if the report is ever published, it will give the villagers none of the answers they need. Where did the intelligence come from, who interpreted it and how, and based on which information was the decision taken to bomb the smugglers? How come the one(s) ordering the bombing didn’t know that the smugglers were on their way again, like it was always notified to the gendarmes? Or did they know? Who gave the order to bomb? Why did it take so long before help came to the place where the bombing happened, to try to save the lives of the few people who didn’t instantly die?

A sincere show of regret

I visited Gülyazi right after the bombing – read the publications of those days here – and I came back for two weeks in spring, and I returned again for the Feast of Sacrifice, in October. And now I am here again, to commemorate the loss of 34 lives and to report about what’s happening.

I have seen no healing in this year. The people don’t get the chance to heal. The state is scratching the wound open over and over again. Not only because they don’t give any answers to all the questions, but also because cruel things have been said by several members of the government (read an example here), no sincere apology has come. The damages the state says it has paid were not accepted by the people. Culturally, it is not necessarily a bad idea to apologize for and compensate a loss with money, but it only works when it is accompanied by a sincere show of regret, and with opening up.

Old men at the graveyard, 27 December 2012

What has struck me this year and what really makes me so sad is how the bombing has affected everybody in the village in so many ways. For example, in October I talked to a 17 year old boy who I had talked to earlier that year as well. I just wanted to chat a bit, so I asked how school was going. He had to quit school, he said. He couldn’t concentrate anymore after what happened, he failed all his classes and he had to pay a lot of money before the principle of the school would allow him to do the same school year again. His family didn’t have that kind of money.

This week, something similar happened with another boy I talked to. He also quit school, like many of his friends, he said. None of these young students can concentrate on their school work anymore, and at the state school they attend the bombing and the loss of their close friends is never discussed. All these kids (still) go smuggling every now and then to contribute to the family income. That’s what hits me when I see them walking in the village: it was kids just like this who died. It must be burning inside them too: it could have been me. How can you deal with that as a young man of 16, 17, 18 years old?

A huge field surrounded by mountains

‘The boys are dead’. That’s what a young woman who just turned 18 told me earlier this year. Again, I was just trying to chat a bit, and after she told me she had just turned 18 I asked her if there was any wedding in the picture. ‘I will never marry’, she said. ‘All the boys are dead’. One of the boys who died in the massacre was her brother. He was only 13 years old.

Since the massacre, no weddings have been celebrated. People get married, but only in front of the imam, not officially, and there is no party. I have seen a video of a traditional wedding here, taken before the massacre. Picture a huge field surrounded by mountains, and then picture a huge, huge circle of people doing the traditional Kurdish wedding dance. The men in traditional costume, the women too, in brightly coloured glittering dresses. All in the past now. I tried to figure out when weddings will be celebrated again. Nobody had an answer. ‘Never?’ I asked. They just don’t know, but for now, they cannot picture ever celebrating a wedding again.

This is little Mahmut, mentioned in the blog post, holding a picture of his dad. The neighbours, also related, mourn next to the fresh grave. The picture was taken by Serpil Polat, and I took a picture of it at a photo exhibition about the massacre in Diyarbakir.

Just like the women may forever wear black. The brightly coloured skirts and shirts that they got as presents from the wife of opposition leader Kilicdaroglu, who visited Gülyazi this year with some members of the women’s branch of the opposition party, are in cupboards now and won’t ever be worn. Some women were actually a bit pissed off after the women of the party left: do they actually think we wear skirts with orange and yellow flowers?

I don’t know if Gülyazi will ever really heal. The state is forgetting about it slowly, as it has  forgotten about all the other unsolved murders it has committed in the past in this region. But the people will never ever forget. It changed their lives forever. They do find some comfort though. I asked Pakize (29), who lost her husband Osman (32) in the bombing and was left to look after Özkan (12), Esra (11), Sinem (10), Hülya (8) and Mahmut (6), how she deals with the pain, and if she still has any hope of ever getting answers. She said: ‘I pray for it. That gives me some peace. Allah knows everything’.

Battle of the universities

It was a real battle last week around the Middle East Technical University (METU, or ODTÜ in Turkish) in Ankara. PM Erdogan visited the university to witness the launch of Turkey’s first ever domestically produced satellite. Students wanted to protest, so Erdogan took along some 3,000 policemen who were very quick to attack the students, who started burning tires and throwing stones, after which the police used excessive force. Now, amazingly, the whole thing has turned into a battle between universities: those who support the students, and those who condemn them.

For me it’s kind of simple. You cannot condemn anybody for demonstrating. It’s a democratic right, and that’s it. Especially students can’t be condemned for protesting. They are young, the ones studying at METU are supposed to be the smartest of the country, they are developing their thoughts, their direction in life, they have opinions, they are supposed to learn to think for themselves. As a student you do that by studying, discussing, reading, and, well, what student’s life is complete without a demonstration now and then? Especially in this country, where freedoms are being limited more and more. To not demonstrate against that as a student would be bad. The rector of METU thinks so too, and is behind his students, and several universities agree with him.

Critical minds

Twelve universities though, among them even those considered to be among the best in the country, like Marmara University, Istanbul University and Mimar Sinan Art Academy, condemn the students’ behaviour. They write in a joint statement that the students were ‘trying to overshadow the historic success of Turkey in the field of space technology through violent acts’, adding that ‘the only way of protest for students should be with critical minds. Students should not be associated with rocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails’.

Universities that want to limit the freedom to demonstrate. Unbelievable. But I’m not surprised. Turkish universities are not free themselves, but rather political actors. The state institution YÖK, the Board for Higher Education, controls academic life. They decide which universities have which faculties and which studies, how many students are allowed, who teaches where, everything.

Teach students repect

The rectors of universities are political figures too, appointed by the President. The ones from the universities that now condemn the students are the ones with rectors close to the the AKP government. They follow the Prime Minister, who said after the clashes that it’s universities’ first responsibility to teach students respect.

New student protests have erupted after the METU clashes. One of the students’ demands is the abolition of YÖK,  which was actually installed by the military rulers after the 1980 coup d’état. It’s been a long-term demand of students. And they are right, of course. Academic freedom without political interference is very important, and actually the basic requirement for any university to function properly. The students are brave to speak out and they should keep on doing so, while some rectors show themselves to be unworthy representatives of academic standards.

Gözde and Damla

TBMM, that’s the abbreviation of the name of the Turkish parliament: Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi, Turkey Grand National Assembly. Basic knowledge for any educated Turkish citizen, you would think. Not for Gözde, who recently was a candidate in the game show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’. She is, mind you, a political science student at Istanbul’s Yeditepe University, and was asked the question: by which name is the TBMM also known? Answer “b”, Parliament, was of course right. She hesitated, and then answered the question wrong. She picked “d”, ‘Yüce Divan’, the Supreme Council – watch it here. Totally embarassing for her, but even more so for the Turkish education system.

After the show, Gözde told a journalist that she hated politics and that she only started reading newspapers about a year ago. This is flabbergasting, of course. Why does a woman who hates politics choose to study political science? And how come she ended up at university in the first place, for that matter? The even more flabbergasting answer is: in Turkey, you don’t have to be smart to be able to go to university. Second, you have hardly anything to choose from.
Third, some private universities don’t offer such good education: their fees are so high the teachers don’t easily let students fail classes. At Yeditepe University, where Gözde studies, students are not even called students, but clients. Annual fees at Yeditepe are between 10,000 and 50,000 lira (between €4,500 and €25,000) – state universities cost around 150 lira a year.

Learn to memorize

So how come you don’t have to be smart to get enrolled in a Turkish university, and how come you don’t have much to choose from? The answer is: the university entrance exam. Based on how well you do in the test, you get the right to register at certain universities in certain faculties. What your interests and skills are is of no importance whatsoever. If you score very well, of course, then you have more choice, and can pick something to your liking, but for most students that is not the case. Apparently, it wasn’t for Gözde either.

Scoring well in the exam is not a matter of being bright. It is a matter of studying very, very hard, and going to a dershane for years – read an article I wrote about that earlier for a youth paper in the Netherlands. You learn to memorize and you are pressured to spend all your time with your nose in the books. Which also doesn’t help, of course, to develop yourself in any way other than learning to repeat facts, as you would for example by socializing with friends, reading papers and novels, visiting museums, making weekend trips or whatever.
Gözde for example, might have learned to memorize what the abbreviation TBMM stands for, without knowing what it actually does, and without being encouraged in any way to find that out for herself.

Extremely anxious

The University Entrance Exam is considered the most important test a Turk takes in his or her life. It was held again yesterday: 1,837,000 students took the exam, striving to get one of the 450,000 places at Turkey’s 167 universities (123 state, the rest private). One of the students who was about to take the test was 18 year old Damla. But as she was preparing to leave home to go to the exam, she had a heart attack. She was taken to hospital, where she died. Her family says she had been extremely anxious all year about sitting for the exam. Did the exam really cause Damla’s death? Scientifically, it seems disputable: high stress can trigger the development of cardiac diseases, but cause instant death? Maybe Damla already had a heart condition that was undiagnosed. Maybe an autopsy will shed more light. But that the heart attack came right before she was off to take the exam seems hardly a coincidence.

Gözde and Damla: one hilarious, and one deeply saddening example of what the Turkish education system leads to.

Come on girls, be a bride!

The plan has only been presented this week, but when you say 4x4x4 these days in Turkey, everybody knows what it’s about: a new education law drafted by the AKP government.

The idea is to increase compulsory education from eight years to twelve years. Nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with the way the AKP wants to do it. They want to create three blocks of four years: two blocks of four years for primary education (one from age 7 to 11, one from 11 to 15), and one block of four years for secondary education. Officially, there can be no break between the first and second block, but there are vague exceptions, and it will also be possible for kids to become apprentices after the first block, or to learn from home.


In practice, this means that girls will have a shorter school career. Now, compulsory education lasts eight years, starting at age 7. The AKP has managed to increase the number of girls enrolling in school, but not necessarily the number of girls graduating from primary education: there are many drop-outs. Girls are needed at home, or there is not enough money to send them to school, or they need to contribute to the family income. Or it’s about time they got married, or at least prepared for it.

What will the effect be of a new school system that makes it very easy to stop sending your girl to school after she has completed the first block, at age 11? It gives parents a logical moment to reconsider their choice of sending their daughters to school or not. When their daughters are eleven years old, they will have to choose whether or not to enrol them in the second block. In the current system, there is no such opportunity before the eight years of compulsory education are finished. Result: girls will drop out earlier.


Some people call the draft law the ‘Come on girls, be a bride!’ law. It’s a variation on the government slogan used for some time now: ‘Come on girls, let’s go to school!’. The new plan totally undermines all the efforts made to enroll more girls in school. The next step should be an effort to keep girls in school, encourage them to do well, convince their families of the benefits of education, convince the families of the negative effects of early marriage and early motherhood. The AKP seems to skip all that by introducing this plan.

Not only women’s organisations, but also the biggest and most powerful businessmen’s organisation TÜSIAD has called on the government to withdraw the plan. I sincerely hope the AKP for once will listen to its critics. And I hope it gives them a signal: the effect of laws on girls and women must always be considered. I am left wondering. Does the AKP aim at girls aged eleven leaving school, do they just don’t care, or do they totally not consider the effects laws have on girls?

Paper policies won’t help womens and childrens rights

‘Similar rulings will be out of the question from now on,’ said Minister of Justice Sadullah Ergin. He was talking about a verdict against 26 men who raped a 13 year old girl: the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by a lower court to give only minimum punishments,  because the men claimed the girl approved of having sex. The Minister said the case was a few years old, and so old laws were applicable, and for new cases everything will be different.

Dream on. Of course, on paper things will be arranged just fine. But the problem is, the Turkish government has a tendency of leaning back after the paper policy is dealt with. It doesn’t take the next essential steps: implementing laws and policies, teaching professionals, and doing everything to change social mentality, including for example school programs, public awareness campaigns, teaching women their rights and opening and financing enough refuge houses. Investing in changing the very patriarchal structures in Turkish society.

How patriarchal Turkey is, was not only shown by this symbolic court verdict, but also by statistics: in the Global Gender Gap Index 2011, Turkey ranks 122 out of 135 countries. Turkey ranks among the ten worst performers in the economic participation and opportunity subindex. Women are just not visible as fully participating members of society. That has effects on every possible field in society.

In this court case, it struck me even more that some of the rapists were teachers – others were for example civil servants, soldiers, and a village head. A teacher raping a 13 year old is already totally appalling, but then having the nerve to defend yourself saying the girl ‘approved’, and then it gets even crazier: you can defend yourself this way in Turkey because there is actually a good chance a judge will believe you. On every level, this case shows that womens rights and childrens rights are worth hardly anything is this country.

Mind my words: the ‘reassuring’ words of the Minister of Justice will prove worthless. This will not be the last time a man gets away with raping a girl.

Baby soldiers, human beings

In some countries, you have child soldiers, but in Turkey, there are baby soldiers. In fact, every Turk, the myth says, is born as a soldier. Children say that every day in their pledge to the flag before they enter school: besides saying they are Turks, honest and hard working, they state they were born a soldier. To become a grown-up Turk, every man has to act in accordance with that fact of birth and fulfil his military service. No exceptions allowed. Is a gynaecologist going to help bring about change?

The lawyer for a group of people who are being prosecuted for supporting conscious objector Enver Aydemir, asked the court to allow a gynaecologist to speak as an expert witness. If the court allows it, the gynaecologist will speak out about how Turks are born: as babies, or as soldiers. An important matter in the case. The defendants are being prosecuted for a press statement they released to support Enver Aydemir, in which they wrote that ‘everybody is born as a baby, nobody is born as a soldier’. That’s a violation of the law that prohibits ‘alienating the public from military service’, decided the prosecutor.

Secular army

Enver Aydemir has been in and out of prison since 2007, when he refused to do his military service. He’s free now, but his legal agony is not over yet: he has to appear before a higher court and could be jailed again. He says as an obedient Muslim he can not serve in a secular army. According to European treaties that Turkey is party to, his right to refuse military service based on religious or conscious objections, must be recognised.

His case was supported by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights earlier this summer, in the case of Armenian citizen Vahan Bayatyan. The latter refused to do his military service,  arguing it’s against his religious beliefs as a Jehova’s Witness. The ECHR ruled last year that Armenia is guilty of violating the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of thought, conscience and religion – the first time the court convicted a country for a violation of that freedom in the context of conscientious objection. This summer the court ruled that the Armenian state has to pay him €20,000 for damages, costs and expenses for the time he spent in jail.

The ruling of last year is important for Turkey too. Turks don’t always like to admit it, but not all Turks believe they were born as soldiers, and the country has about 300 conscious objectors. If Turkey took the ruling in the Bayatyan case seriously, they would change the law and make it possible for people not to do their military service and opt for an alternative civilian service. The unfortunate thing about rulings of the ECHR though, is that there is no way you can force a country to obey them. It’s a moral obligation, and as you can read for example here, Turkey doesn’t really have a tendency to take this moral obligation seriously.

Human beings

I hope the gynaecologist will be accepted as an expert witness in the case about the supporters of Enver Aydemir. And that the supporters will not be convicted of ‘alienating the public from military service’. It might help to broaden the freedom of speech, and thus the possibilities to share the reasons why you could choose not to do your military service. To make people aware of the fact that, according to treaties that Turkey is a signatory to, you have the right to object based on your conscious or religion.

It might in the long run help to get rid of the myth that every Turk is born a soldier – I have always found that an appalling thought, and I often think about it when I see Turkish baby boys or my neighbourhood boys playing on the street. They are not soldiers. They are not destined to be ready to die for their country. They are human beings. Their conscious is one of the things that make them human, and they must be able to act according to it when it tells them not to take up arms and learn to kill.